Pew Commends Fisheries Commission for ‘Seminal Moment’ Towards Sustainably Managing Atlantic Bluefin Tuna

Modernized policy will lead to long-term sustainability

VALE DO LOBO, Portugal—The Pew Charitable Trusts today praised the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) for adopting a modernized fisheries management plan for Atlantic bluefin tuna, one of the most valuable fishes in the world.

ICCAT—a regional fisheries management organization responsible for the governance of Atlantic bluefin, tropical tunas and other open ocean species in the Atlantic—adopted a management procedure that will use science-based data to inform managers of how much bluefin can be caught each year and shift ICCAT from reactive decisions based on short-term needs to proactive rules designed to secure a sustainable fishery over the long term.

By adopting the management procedure, which is also known as a harvest strategy, ICCAT is moving away from the annual, and frequently politicized, catch quota negotiations that contributed to years of decline and overfishing of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Significantly, the management procedure will allow the western Atlantic population of the species to achieve a healthy level and lock in the recent recovery of the once highly depleted eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna population.

Grantly Galland, a senior officer with Pew’s international fisheries project, issued the following statement:

“After nearly a decade of negotiations at the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, today’s adoption of a management procedure for Atlantic bluefin tuna is a seminal moment in the management of fish stocks.

“Atlantic bluefin, with commercial fisheries worth more than $1 billion each year, was once the poster child for overfishing. For years, ICCAT and its 52 member governments frequently adopted quotas far above the scientifically recommended limits. But thanks to leadership from Canada, the European Union, Japan, and the United States, all of whom championed efforts to restructure Atlantic bluefin management, there is now an ICCAT-wide commitment to embrace a long-term, sustainable vision for the fishery.

“Now, despite significant global progress—represented by the management procedures adopted earlier this year in the Indian Ocean and today in the Atlantic—the Pacific Ocean remains the last region of the world without any management procedures governing fishing vessels that target an internationally managed stock.

“That could change when the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) meets 27 November-3 December in Da Nang, Vietnam. At the meeting, WCPFC members should adopt and immediately implement a management procedure for Pacific skipjack tuna, which makes up 35% of the world’s total commercial tuna catches and is a critically important source of food, livelihoods, and government revenue.

“The WCPFC adopting such a policy for skipjack in the Pacific Ocean would continue a paradigm shift in how countries around the globe govern fishing—and would be a turning point towards sustainable management across the world’s tuna fisheries.”

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